Since I’ve been married to a U.S. Marine for over 20 years, I have spent much of the past two decades surrounded by veterans. And though I’ve come to accept that there are thousands of Americans willing to risk their lives so that the rest of us can enjoy the freedom we exercise every day, I am still in awe of how strong that commitment to serve is.
I’ve visited wounded warriors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who have bands hooked up to their hospital beds to allow them to continue to do strength workouts so that they can return to service as soon as possible. I’ve been passed during a run on base by a veteran with a prosthetic leg. I’ve seen WWII and Vietnam veterans show up at homecoming events to show THEIR support for the new generation of American heroes. And I’ve seen my husband’s x-rays showing all the damage a lifetime of military service has inflicted upon his body and yet retirement is still the furthest thing from his mind. We are blessed to have so many men and women who not only want to fight for our freedom, but are willing to go far beyond what the average person would endure to do it.
These are the reasons that I am thankful for our veterans every day. I know not everyone is surrounded by these same images on a daily basis, which is why I am glad that Veteran’s Day brings attention to these brave individuals. If you, too, are moved by their dedication and sacrifices, I hope you will join me in thanking them this Veteran’s Day. For those of you who aren’t sure how to do that, I’ve put together this list of ways to show your support for veterans this Veteran’s Day.
Though my husband claims that he is not offended by US citizens who show disrespect for our flag or our country (in fact, he is proud that he has fought for a country that allows such freedom of expression and accommodates different viewpoints), I consider it extremely disrespectful. I believe there are ways to express dissatisfaction with policies or politics without insulting the symbols of the nation to which we choose (and are lucky to) belong. If you want to support veterans and show appreciation for their sacrifices on your behalf, simply show proper respect to the symbols and traditions of our nation. Stand quietly for the national anthem, do not desecrate the American flag, and exhibit pride in our country (which doesn’t mean you have to blindly accept everything our leaders decide).
Donate Time Through Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
DAV is always looking for volunteers to help in a wide variety of roles. In hospitals, volunteers help VA staff and provide companionship to veteran patients. Many local DAV programs look for volunteers to help veterans with common tasks like running errands, grocery shopping, or doing yard work. They also provide transportation for vets between their homes and VA hospitals and rely on volunteer drivers to provide this service.
Donate Miles or Hotel Points
The Fisher House Foundation provides temporary lodging in homes near major military and VA medical centers for the family members of wounded veterans. They also run a program called Hero Miles, to which you can donate your frequent flyer miles to help bring family members to the bedside of injured service members. Fisher House also runs Hotels for Heroes which uses donated hotel points to allow family members to lodge near injured service members in areas where there is not a Fisher House or when space is not available.
Donate a Haircut
One VERY easy way you can show appreciation for a veteran this Veteran’s Day is to donate a haircut. Any customer who gets a haircut at Great Clips on November 11th will receive a free haircut card to give to a veteran. Any veteran or active member of the military may redeem the card (family members are not eligible to redeem).
Great Clips is the ONLY major hair salon offering this promotion but with over 3,800 salons in the US and Canada, you shouldn’t have trouble finding one. Find a salon near you. We have one just a few miles from our house and I’ve been putting off haircuts for two of my children and myself just so we can take advantage of this opportunity to give back to our veterans. I’m so thankful that Great Clips is running this promotion again (this is the third year). Learn more about the Great Clips Veterans Day promotion.
Help Raise a Canine Companion
Canine Companions for Independence provides assistance dogs to US war veterans who are injured or suffering from PTSD. They are always looking for volunteers to help train puppies to work as service dogs. If you love dogs and are willing to take on the responsibility of raising and training a puppy, this is a rewarding and significant way to help veterans in need. If you aren’t up for the commitment of raising a service dog, you can still help Canine Companions by participating in DogFest Walk ‘n Roll, a nationwide event designed to engage communities across the country and raise awareness of Canine Companions mission. You can walk and raise donations or you can volunteer at the event to help make it a success.
Help Capture a Veteran’s Story
The Veterans History Project collects and preserves the personal accounts of American war veterans. The goal is to make these firsthand accounts available to future generations so that they can learn from these stories and have a better understanding of the realities of war. You can help by assisting a veteran in completing the Veterans History Project Field Kit or by conducting an interview to capture his or her story. This is a great volunteer project for high school students as well (anyone in 10th grade or above can participate).
Support Homes for our Troops
Homes for our Troops provides mortgage-free, specially adapted homes to severely injured veterans to help them rebuild their lives. You can support this amazing organization in one of several ways. You can donate funds, materials, land or goods. You can help build the homes. Or, you can participate in fundraisers.
We want you to craft authentic, personal stories and tutorials about why Veterans Day is important to you and ways you and your readers can thank the veterans that matter to them. Please use original photography and pose the questions, “Do you have a special veteran in your life? If so, how do you thank them?”
Send a Care Package via Operation Gratitude
Operation Gratitude sends over 150,000 care packages each year to new recruits, veterans, first responders, wounded warriors, caregivers, and service members. These packages include snacks, entertainment, hygiene items, handmade items, and personal letters. Operation Gratitude is currently in urgent need of personal letters, handmade scarves and paracord bracelets, and financial donations to pay for shipping costs.
Send a Gift via USO Wishbook
The USO Wishbook provides a tangible way for you to thank veterans and service members. You simply choose a gift from the wishbook (e.g. Comfort Food Package or Phone Calls Home), purchase it via the website, and then send an eCard that will be delivered with your gift.
Say Thank You
Veterans don’t put their lives on the line because they are hoping to get rich or to collect a bunch of free stuff. They do it because they have strong ideals about our nation’s values and history. They have a genuine love of our country and its citizens. The best way to show your support for a veteran this Veteran’s Day is to simply be thankful for their contribution to the freedom and security you enjoy as a US citizen. If you know a veteran, simply thanking him or her for their service is a great way to lend your support.
Of course, if you happen to be needing a haircut, picking up a free haircut card for a veteran while you’re at Great Clips on November 11th, wouldn’t be unappreciated. 🙂